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Film / Sextette

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Sextette, a 1978 musical comedy film directed by Ken Hughes (Chitty Chitty Bang Bang), is best known for being Mae West's final film role, an adaptation of her 1961 musical of the same name (later renamed Sextet).note 

Marlo Manners (West), a globally recognized actress/sex symbol, has just wed her sixth husband, Sir Michael Barrington (Timothy Dalton), and she would like nothing better than to enjoy her honeymoon with him in a posh London hotel. Unfortunately, she's being pulled in many different directions — by her agent (Dom De Luise), the director of her latest film/one of her ex-husbands (Ringo Starr), a gangster/another one of her ex-husbands whom she thought was dead (George Hamilton), and a Russian ambassador/ex-lover (Tony Curtis) at the hotel for an international peace conference. In truth, she has lived a double life as a secret agent for years, using her beauty and charm on men of power... and, as an audiotape she's been dictating her Compromising Memoirs to goes astray and the peace conference goes awry, she might just be the only person who can keep the world on an even keel.

The film was critically and commercially derided but has managed to become something of a Cult Classic.

This film contains examples of:

  • Acrofatic: During his song-and-dance number, Dom De Luise shows some serious dance moves.
  • Angry Chef: Dan comes across the world summit's chef furious over all the foreign cuisine he has to serve. Dan tries to cool his temper with a friendly chat but ends up whipping him into a murderous rage by offhandedly mentioning that he likes hamburger.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Dom De Luise's character's song-and-dance number is a soft-shoe rendition of The Beatles' "Honey Pie". No one mentions that Beatle Ringo Starr is in this film.
  • Gaussian Girl: In an effort to hide the fact that its female lead was in her eighties, the film makes heavy use of the Gaussian blur.
  • Hollywood Old: Bizarrely inverted, as the film insists on acting like the 84-year-old West is still in her prime. (In fact, West herself was confused as to why she looked so old in the dailies — having them reshot with what seems like a quarter gallon of vaseline on the lens.)
  • Informed Attractiveness: The film goes to great pains to present Marlo as the epitome of beauty.
  • I Want You to Meet an Old Friend of Mine: George Raft — whose 1932 drama Night After Night launched West's film career, and one of the few men in the cast old enough to have been her contemporary — does a small scene As Himself in the elevator with Marlo.note  Reg Lewis and several other bodybuilders from her 1950's Las Vegas residency also have cameos in the gym scene.
  • Kavorka Woman: Marlo is adored and desired by every male character in the entire film, save Keith Moon's manifestly Camp Gay fashion designer. Keep in mind that West was 84 at the time.
  • Lysistrata Gambit: A variation. It turns out that Marlo is intimately familiar with every world leader at the conference (yes, possibly Jimmy Carter included), and thus manages to get them to calm down and sign the treaty, with the added threat that she'll spill the secrets she's picked up from their pillow talk if they don't. Absolutely nobody objects to this, because it seems sex with Marlo is just that good.
  • May–December Romance: Marlo's latest husband is considerably younger than she. (West was in her mid-80s at the time of the shoot, while Dalton was in his mid-30s.)
  • Mistaken for Gay: The media believes Sir Michael is gay, and he constantly reinforces this rumor by naively declaring such lines as "Well, yes, I would say so. Always gay, never depressed. Happy and gay. That's my motto", "It's queer to me," he's a "man's man" and that as a coxswain he "coxed the entire crew."
  • The Musical: The songs are a curious mix of original numbers and such pop songs as "Honey Pie", "Love Will Keep Us Together" and "Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen" (albeit with an age lift to twenty-one).
  • Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?: A famous story about West had her asking a police officer assigned to escort her "Is that a pistol in your pocket, or are you just happy to see me?" It's unclear if she ever actually said that, but she does deliver the line in this film.
  • Worst News Judgment Ever: Apparently, the sex life and consummation of an 84-year-old woman with a 31-year-old Brit is front page news across the world, instead of on Ripley's Believe It or Not! (or maybe Faces of Death). Even allowing that she's the world's biggest movie star In-Universe, that's extreme.